by Alexandra Ward

I sit on the lid of the toilet seat, unsure what’s more deafening: the insistent buzz of the brazenly loud speakers or the thrumming of the ache in my chest. I press my palms into my eyes, thinking, What am I doing here? Drowning in my own self-pity, again, like any other Tuesday night, pulling strands of hair from where the honey-tinted gloss has glued them to my lips. I hate house parties. Most of them, anyway; this one especially. I re-check my phone, coveting just two simple blue ticks, that’s all, but my messages remain unread. Unknown, maybe. I think of hitting ‘unsend’, but what’s the point? I know you’ve read it. I bet you have. But instead of clicking on the message and taking the time to reply, you’ll just swipe it away, unanswered, and unaccounted for, whilst you knock back another drink on the other side of the wall. I wipe away the wetness that clings to my lashes, my sleeves heavy with the thick scent of your smoke and a touch of your cologne. A smudge of bronze lingers on the heel of my left hand.
               In my head I hear your laugh. You have two kinds of laughter, did you know that? There’s the polite chuckle, reserved for mediocre jokes and shared stories of the past, and the warmer, louder laugh that rings out rarely these days. You barely bother to huff a “hah” when I make the slightest attempt to lighten the grey mood that relentlessly looms over us like a cloud of the same shade. Maybe silent treatment is the calm before the storm, and the worst is yet to fall.
               The doorknob twists, held back by the lock which, thank fuck, unexpectedly holds its ground as it’s rattled from the outside.
               “Occupied,” I say, ignored, as the rattling of the knob starts up again. “I said it’s occupied.”
               “No need to take your bloody time, love,” is hissed back in reply.
               I’m sorry that this isn’t the appropriate time for my crying.
               Should I just leave? No one will miss me, I’m sure, now everyone’s half-way through a night of drinking, only interrupted by frequent cigarette breaks on the fire escape or an occasional round of whichever card game we can all remember the rules of. If I slip away, would you take any notice? I know Jo would, and Emer. Both of them have already sent their own variation of the you ok? where’d you go? texts. But I don’t expect a message from you when you never answer mine.
               Another incessant rattle. Standing up, I kick the door, hard, twice. FUCK. YOU. The rattling stops.
               At the sink, I avoid my own gaze in the mirror; the woman I glanced there just moments ago looked as if she was ready to break through the glass to reach me. Warm water sputters out onto my hands, swirling soap suds and scrubbed eyeshadow around a less-than clean basin before being swallowed up, gone.